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Mattk87

Should I take more classes just for letter of reccomendations?

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Ok I have graduated with a degree in history in may and want to get some letter of recommendations, the only problem is I didn't really plan a lot while I was an undergrad about going to grad school. The end result is I never really forged connections with any of my professors, so I am worried about getting a letter of reccomendation. I have contacted one of my professors from my class last semester where I had to write a research paper. He agreed to write me a letter of reccomendation so that is one down. However, I am really not comfortable going back and asking any of my other professors. While I got As in their classes I never really went to their office and got to know them.

I have been thinking about taking a couple extra college history classes (preferably where you have to write a research paper) with the goal of specifically building a relationship with the professor and then asking for a letter of reccomendation. Is this a worthwhile strategy? Do your letter of reccomendations have to be from when you were persuing your undergrad degree?

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That could be a worthwhile strategy, if you really can't get at least one more recommendation from undergrad. Your undergrad experience is recent enough that maybe you could get another letter, not based on knowing the professor well, but based on an excellent paper you wrote or project you did -- just remind the professor of your work and affirm your interests and how they relate to that work.

But no, all your letters don't have to be from undergrad. It does seem a little weird to me to graduate and then take classes to get letters. I think the professors will know what you're doing, and it will seem contrived. But that might not matter.... Still, I think undergrad would be preferable.

Plus, you'll have more expenses to get back to school, more transcripts to report if it's a school other than your alma mater, and if it's a community college you're going to, the letters probably won't mean as much as letters from your undergrad institution would have.

If you have any work experience related to history, you might be able to use that for a letter.

Good luck!

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I think the professors will know what you're doing, and it will seem contrived.

This is exactly the thing I was going to comment on, OP. The way you talk about this in your post, it sounds like this is what you think you'd be doing: essentially using these experiences, and these profs, to get yourself in to grad school. Okay, that was a slightly crude way of putting it, but I hope you see what I mean. If that is the attitude you actually have (and I'm not saying it is), then I think it will be obvious to any profs you try to form a relationship with, and it might compromise your relationship.

However, think about it another way. Why do you need letters of rec in order to get in to grad school? To put it crudely again: to show, based on the word of someone adcoms see as more reliable and trustworthy than you, that you know what you're getting into and that you are talented enough to take it on. The reason they see profs as more reliable and trustworthy than you is partly that they simply have a good reputation that you don't, but partly also that they know what they're talking about through their experience in the field, in a way that you, given your lack of experience, don't.

If you haven't spoken with professors about your career choice, how do you know that it is the right career choice for you? (I am asking rhetorically.) And how do you know that your work is really good enough, not just to get an undergrad A, but to qualify you for grad school?

If you approach taking more classes and getting to know profs as a way of answering these questions, I think profs will be much more respectful, open to making a connection, and likely to have a positive impression of you. Everyone loves talking about their job, and everyone also loves a person with enough respect for its challenges to wonder whether they have what it takes. It can just seem like a more humble and respectful angle than "There, I came to your office hours, now please write me a letter." (Which is not what I am accusing you of having said!)

Once again, please do not take this post as rebuking or condescending. I guess it seemed like a point worth making even if it is just responding to a caricatured version of your post, because it is something I have seen a few other applicants struggle with. I think seeming to have the right attitude toward the field is extremely important throughout the application process, and an aspect that isn't always mentioned explicitly.

Also, I have assumed that you are thinking of applying for a PhD -- a Master's may be an entirely different game.

Edited by socialpsych

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Well, Social Psych I certainly hope im not trying to "use" the professors as a way to get into grad school, but maybe that is what I am doing in a way. I would take classes that interest me and would be applicable to what I want to study (military history), and at the same time just try to make more of an effort to interact with the prof. I just didn't start seriously feeling like grad school was a route I wanted to go, until my last semester or so of undergrad, and therefore I don't feel like have prepared LORs and writing samples together as well as I could/should have.

I have noticed some programs allow you to take graduate classes without formally pursuing a degree, and a certain amount of hours can be counted toward a degree once you have been accepted. Would this be a preferable way for someone who is worried about having enough qualified reccomendations. Oh and btw I am going for Masters and then possibly PhD.

Sorry if some of these issues are elementary, but I'm just starting to delve into all this grad school stuff and its pretty complex! :D

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Well, Social Psych I certainly hope im not trying to "use" the professors as a way to get into grad school, but maybe that is what I am doing in a way. I would take classes that interest me and would be applicable to what I want to study (military history), and at the same time just try to make more of an effort to interact with the prof. I just didn't start seriously feeling like grad school was a route I wanted to go, until my last semester or so of undergrad, and therefore I don't feel like have prepared LORs and writing samples together as well as I could/should have.

I have noticed some programs allow you to take graduate classes without formally pursuing a degree, and a certain amount of hours can be counted toward a degree once you have been accepted. Would this be a preferable way for someone who is worried about having enough qualified reccomendations. Oh and btw I am going for Masters and then possibly PhD.

Sorry if some of these issues are elementary, but I'm just starting to delve into all this grad school stuff and its pretty complex! :D

Do you still live relatively close to your undergrad institution? Another option would be to e-mail other professors whose classes you did well in and ask them to meet with you to talk about grad school and being a professor. It will remind them of who you are and you'll come across as a bit more motivated. You could bring up the subject of letters of recommendation and ask whom they would suggest write you one (with the hopes that THEY will be open to writing you one).

It's obviously ideal if you can get more than one letter from your undergrad institution. Recommendations from these people will mean a WHOLE lot more than some professor at a community college or an online course.

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